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David Lehman

If you're not paying for it through the health plan, you pay for it in the emergency room.

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To William Holden

(July 15)

We know who
the guards are
in those POW
movies with brutal
but easy to
fool fat Germans
or sadistic Japanese
who never smiled
they're the grown-ups
we're the kids
that's the secret

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Words can have no single fixed meaning. Like wayward electrons, they can spin away from their initial orbit and enter a wider magnetic field. No one owns them or has a proprietary right to dictate how they will be used.

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November 6

Remember when Khrushchev said
"We will bury you!"
on the cover
of Time
I thought he was
employing a metaphor
as in "Braves Scalp Giants!"
on the back page
of the Daily News
I pictured the Russians
burying us under a mound
of all the rubble
that rubles could buy
when what he meant was
he had come not to praise Caesar
but to bury him

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The Lift

The wonderful thing
about being with
you in this hotel
lift in London full
of people is that none
of them knows what you
and I are about to do
in bed or possibly
on the floor in fact not
even you realize yet
how much you're going
to enjoy this act for
which we have no name
not clinical or hideous, just
a double digit number, perfect
as a skater's figure eight

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Maximism

What I propose is not
Marxism, which
is not dead yet in
the English department,
Not maximalism, which was
a still-born alternative
to minimalism,
Nor Maxism, which rests on
adulation of Max
Beerbohm, parodist
nonpareil,
But maximism, the love
of adages,
Or Maximism, the advocacy of
maximum gastronomic
pleasure on the model
of a meal at Maxim's
in Paris in, say, 1950.
Is that clear?

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September 22

It's the day of the ram
and the head of the year
Rosh Ha'Shanah at
services I sat next to
Mel Torme who outshone
all comers with his bar
mitzvah heroics while on
my left is Barnett Newman
big talker whose favorite
subjects include the horses
and the stock market he
knows the odds the women
are seated upstairs this is
an orthodox congregation
very serious I make
eye contact with the wife
of Menelaus who runs off
with Paris confident I'm Paris.

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February 23

Light rain is falling in Central Park
but not on Upper Fifth Avenue or Central Park West
where sun and sky are yellow and blue
Winds are gusting on Washington Square
through the arches and on to LaGuardia Place
but calm is the corner of 8th Street and Second Avenue
which reminds me of something John Ashbery said
about his poem "Crazy Weather" he said
he was in favor of all kinds of weather
just so long as it's genuine weather
which is always unusually bad, unusually
good, or unusually indifferent,
since there isn't really any norm for weather
When he was a boy his mother met a friend
who said, "Isn't this funny weather?"

It was one of his earliest memories

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April 21

I'm a very average person,
and I think most people are.
I vote with the common man.
I have two kids, a boy and a girl.
Last Sunday I played golf with the boss.
Hey, it beats working.
I'm his wife. I may be brainless but
I'm her husband. I played golf with her
Last Sunday I played golf with the boss
and it was the first warm morning in May
and like every other moron driving a lawnmower
I'm their husband. I may be brainless but
I'm their wife. I'm their mother.
I have two kids, a boy and a girl,
and it was the first warm morning in May
and I think most people are
like every other moron driving a lawnmower.
I'm a very average person.
I vote with the common man.
Hey, it beats working.

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December 7

As I sit at my desk wishing
I did not have to edit a book
on poetry and painting a
subject that fascinates me
usually, but today is not as
usual, being today, white sky,
decent amount of sunlight,
forty one degrees in Central Park,
and it makes sense to dream of
Chicago, another big city
with two major league ballclubs,
and the pleasure of seeing Paul
and you, too, Elaine, whom
I never get to see often enough
in our own city of the subway series
the champagne gallery and
the tech wreck on wall street,
and as I look out the window
almost any minute I expect
the brokers to fall from the sky

[...] Read more

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